Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” I hope you and your family have enjoyed this holiday season. Robba and I wish you a Happy New Year and send you our best wishes for the year ahead. I hope the New Year brings a Congress capable of working together for the well-being of our nation. This week, I spoke with Cathy Dawes at 1350 KMAN in Manhattan about my hopes for 2016 in Washington, D.C. Click here to listen to the full interview.
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Seeking Answers About Allegations of Misconduct at Dole VA
On Monday afternoon, I met with officials from the Robert J. Dole Medical Center as a follow-up to my recent letter to Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald requesting specific answers about allegations of harassment and misconduct made by University of Kansas (KU) surgical residents against a VA physician. Included in the meeting were: Medical Center Director Francisco Vazquez; Dole VA Chief of Staff, Dr. Syed Raffi; VA VISN 15 Director, Dr. Bill Patterson; Dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, Dr. Garold Minns; and KU Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, Dr. Paul Callaway.
During the meeting we discussed the actions taken in response to the accusations and the disciplinary process moving forward. Veterans deserve a VA worthy of their service, and that includes a safe working and learning environment for those who choose to serve them. I will continue to work with the VA to make certain they have the resources needed to hold bad actors accountable and to ensure those who serve our veterans have a safe environment from which to do so.
Kansas Listening Tour Continues
This week, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour and completed the last five stops of 2015 with visits to in Udall, Wellington, Clearwater, Haven, and Hillsboro.
I kicked off the day Tuesday in Udall with a Listening Tour stop at the Udall Community Building. Despite the slick roads, I was pleased to have 20 Kansans in attendance from the surrounding communities, including Derby, Ark City and Belle Plaine. Topics of conversation ranged from issues that impact rural America to issues that impact the entire country. We had questions on protecting the local post office from closure, the cost of health care under the Affordable Care Act, government spending and immigration reform. Thanks again to everyone who was able to attend, including State Sen. Steve Abrams, who attended all four of my Listening Tour stops on Tuesday, and Udall Mayor Steve Brown. Thanks also to Archie Macias of Wheat State Telephone, who helped coordinate the town hall meeting.
After Udall, I headed to Wellington where I hosted a town hall meeting at the Sumner Regional Medical Center. Thanks to the more than 30 folks who came out to visit with me. Some of the issues we discussed included health care – both in rural areas and for our nation’s veterans – Social Security and tax reform. I appreciate Wellington City Commissioner Vince Wetta’s help coordinating the visit and enjoyed seeing Wellington Mayor Shelley Hansel.
My next stop in south central Kansas Tuesday was Sedgwick County, where more than 55 area residents stopped by the Clearwater Community Center to share feedback and concerns on a wide array of topics including multiple issues related to veterans’ healthcare, our national debt, and the public education system. I especially appreciated visiting with Cecil Jeffries, U.S. Air Force and Korean War Veteran, with whom I am pictured below. Thanks to City Administrator Justin Givens for arranging my stop. Thanks also to State Senator Dan Kerschen, State Rep. John Whitmer, Kansas Honor Flight organizer Herb Duncan, Kansas Turnpike Association CEO Steve Hewitt, former Kansas Department Commander of the VFW James Denison and everyone who came out to speak with me.
My final town hall meeting of the day Tuesday was in Reno County where approximately 55 Kansans turned out at the senior center in Haven to discuss Medicare, Social Security, homeland security, renewable energy and making certain each and every Kansan has enough to eat. Special thanks to my good friend Harland Priddle for arranging and promoting my visit. Thanks also to Reno County Commissioners Dan Deming and James Schlickau, Buhler Mayor Mo Yoder and the many folks who braved cold weather and wet roads in order to provide me with a good dose of Kansas common sense. Photos courtesy of Andrew Whitaker of the Hutchinson News.
It was good to round out this year’s Kansas Listening Tour in Hillsboro at the Wohlgemuth Music Education Center of Tabor College. Thanks to the just more than 50 folks from around the area who turned out to share concerns and give feedback on the impact of the Choice Act, mental health care, and general dysfunction in Congress. It was a pleasure to have Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke, Marion Mayor Todd Heitschmidt, McPherson Mayor Tom Brown, and State Senator Rick Wilbourn in attendance—thanks for coming.
The issues I focus on and work I do in Washington, D.C., are significantly based on the conversations I have with Kansans so making it back home to visit with folks is my top priority. 2016 will bring me to a community near you, and I hope you’ll come out and visit with me. You can visit my website to learn more about these and other upcoming Kansas Listening Tour stops in your community.
Galva Community Visit
On my drive to Hillsboro Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to stop in the community of Galva and visit with residents and businesses. In addition to the Post Office and City Hall, I stopped by Farmers State Bank, Home Communications and Hungry Mann's Cafe. Thanks again for being so welcoming and for the good conversations about what’s going on in Galva and the country.
Honoring the Life of Jane Wingert
On Thursday, I attended Jane Wingert of Ottawa’s funeral. Jane was very active in the Ottawa community and worked for a nonprofit overseas relief organization. I know Jane’s husband, George, as Governor Joan Finney's legislative liaison and as a member of the Board of Regents. George also served in the Kansas State House from 1971-1978. During this difficult time, we’re keeping George and their family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.
Celebrating Former State Legislator
Robba and I celebrated the wedding of Travis Couture-Lovelady and Carly Miller in Hays on Saturday. Travis, a Palco native, served District 110 in Northwest Kansas from 2013-2015 as my hometown state representative. His wife Carly is from Wichita.
Apply to be a Summer 2016 Intern
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works.
I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today where I have interns year-round who have a unique opportunity to work closely with my staff on behalf of Kansas. Applications are already being accepted for internships in my Washington, D.C., office for the summer 2016 term. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence.
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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